Santorini Animal Welfare Association

The Santorini Animal Welfare Association – SAWA is a non-governmental, non-profit organization, founded in 1992 by active and devoted animal lovers of the island of Santorini, Greece.

SAWAs purpose is to protect the island’s animals - ranging from stray dogs and cats to abandoned donkeys and mules, care for their wellbeing and being an advocate of their rights.

In close cooperation with the Municipality of Thira and the local vet, SAWA insures that all the stray animals are neutered and spayed, vaccinated, treated in case of injury, disease or poisoning and if possible re-homed in Greece or abroad.

At Sawa there are currently around 100 dogs, 20 donkeys and mules, 2 horses, 20 cats and 2 pigs. During the last 10 years we’ve been promoting well-being and respect for these wonderful animals.


Why We Care!

At SAWA Santorini we care for the animals on the Island land and occasionally also help animals from nearby islands. We practice and believe in a non-kill shelter approach.  

We believe that all animals deserve a new chance in life, and are working hard to insure that all animals are adopted and get a second change and the possibility for a new life.  



At SAWA we normally take in volunteers on a regular basis and very much appreciate the extra hands. ​We invite people that would like to, to come by and take a dog for a walk. This is every morning at 9 am, but as we are working, visitors will have to make it to the shelter by themselves.

As a volunteer at SAWA there is a number of tasks that needs to get done everyday. A normal day is often starts at 08.00 am - 13.00 pm and consists of: 

  • Cleaning the shelters
  • Feeding the animals 
  • Walking the dogs
  • Hanging with the animals and giving and receiving a lot of love. 



We have no easy access to the shelter as the dirt roads have not been repaired by the State after the winter storms, and you are strongly advised to take care if driving in a rental vehicle.

The most smooth way to drive or walk up, is just before entering the village of Emborio. On your right hand you will spot a big sign of an AVIN gas station. Before you reach it make a left - it looks like a U turn heading towards the mountain. If you are planning to walk, that side road is a good place to park.

Take into account that it is a 25 to 30 minute hike on foot. You just follow the dirt road to an elevated gorge formation, and all the way up that narrow passage will lead you to our donkey area. We accept dog walkers at 9am so please wear relevant closed shoes, hats, sun protection and water as temperatures tend to rise fast this time of the year. ​

Beside the daily routines there are also many ad hoc tasks that needs to be taken care of - depending on the season of your stay. 



​We love to get help - but we unfortunately do not have any accommodation opportunities for volunteers.

Voluntering at SAWA requires that volunteers have a place to stay of their own and the shelter do not have funds to pay for this accommodation.

We hope to be able in the future to offer a free place at the shelter - but this is currently not an option we have.

Contact / Enquiry


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